As the lockdown is easing out and the Covid positive cases in India are on a rise, many people are opting DIY (Do it Yourself) day trips and hikes over organized group trips. Either with just family members or a closed knit of friends is what seems to be an option for some time more to come. Quite a few of them have been asking me to give them suggestions of where they can go for short drives or hikes. One such suggestion is ‘Kunti Betta’. Although I had done this hike with an organized itinerary by ‘Plan the Unplanned’, one can try this by themselves. However, a hike in daylight is suggested over our pre-dawn adventure.
We started from Bangalore at midnight as we wanted to reach the peak before sunrise. It was still dark, cold and windy when our minibus reached the parking lot of ‘Sri Shankarananda Bharati Vidyapeeth’ school at Kachenahalli village in Mandya district. We climbed a small flight of stairs, walked past a temple pond (we couldn’t see but only were told by our guide) and continued to walk in a single line following each other’s torchlights. While a couple of them tripped over small stones on their path, a few others got their shoes wet by stepping into water puddles in the dark. With torchlight, our guide navigated the path through thick shrubs, tall grasses and large boulders enroute. We reached the peak in a couple of hours.
It was dark when we reached the top and it was unexpectedly cold. I hadn’t gone with enough warmers but that didn’t stop me from sleeping on the cold rock until dawn. I watched the stars in the clear sky and didn’t realise that I had surrendered to the sleep gods. I was awakened by a fellow hiker at dawn. The view of the distant lake and sugarcane farms looked nice from the top. Also, several other rocky hillocks dotted our view. The one we were standing at was named after Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas. History has it that the hill was earlier called as the ‘French Rocks’, named by the French army in the pre-independence era. Although it was partially cloudy by the time the dawn broke, we still got lucky to get a glimpse of the sun that morning. After taking enough photos, we started our descent.
Since there are lot of loose rocks, there were possibilities of slip. Only during descent, we got a sense of the terrain and the view which we had missed while climbing up. We soon reached the temple pond at the base beside which there is a large monolithic rock. The localites use this as a giant slide. I too climbed up this rock and the kid in me had fun sliding down from this version of the desi slide.
Our stomachs were grumbling by that time and there was no food around. With permission, we could use the washroom at the school. We then commenced our return to Bangalore with a breakfast stop at ‘Maddur Tiffanys’ for their signature dish- Maddur vadas with Masala dosa and filter coffee. The landscape was beautiful with green sugarcane farms extending on both sides of the countryside roads before we hit the highway.
A word of advice though:
Since there are too many hillocks in a cluster, having a guide would be better to find the right peak.
Since we hiked before dawn, there was also the fear of confronting wild animals like bears and leopards. Although, we didn’t see any, this was told by someone in the group.
Although we did only the early morning hike, you can make it a full day activity. These are a few things you can include in your itinerary:
Since Mandya is the ‘Sugar Bowl’ of Karnataka, you can visit any of the small sugar/jaggery making setups on the farms enroute and savor freshly made jaggery.
A lot of people visit the Tonnur lake (about 10kms away) from Kunti Betta and take a dip there. Alternatively, you can visit Manchinabele dam or Kanva reservoir. We skipped it as we were told that the soil on the banks was marshy at the time we visited.
You can visit Ranganathittu Birds sanctuary and take a ferry ride in the river.
You can also visit ‘Janapada Loka’ to get an overview of the folk-culture from across Karnataka.
Lockdown 5.0. simply put, was just another normal day in Karnataka, except that the educational institutions were still under lockdown. So, unwinding on a weekend after a long work week was normal too. With friends, I chose to hike on a Sunday morning to Madhugiri betta, the second highest monolithic hill in Asia. We started from Bangalore at 04.30.am. hoping to start the hike as soon as the gates were opened. While KSTDC has been abundantly promoting post-Covid tourism in the state, we had a surprise awaiting us at the trek base. Since Madhugiri fort comes under ASI’s protected monuments (controlled by the central government), we were told that trekking wasn’t permitted by the Central government. Hence, we were left with two options. Either return home or find another hill nearby where we could hike.
We chose the latter. So instant suggestions that came from someone in the group was Devarayanadurga and Siddarabetta. Then, we decided to give Devarayanadurga a miss as we all favoured a hike over a flight of stairs. We arrived at the base of Siddarabetta where we noticed a board that said, ‘climbing the hill with footwear was a sin’. Since many people use this path to visit a temple situated halfway, we didn’t want to hurt the local sentiments by wearing our shoes. Thinking that ‘a barefoot hike was definitely going to be an experience’ in our heads, we left our shoes back in our car.
The initial part of the climb, until the Siddeshwara Swamy temple was steep but easy with well laid out steps and iron rods to hold onto. When we reached a small temple kind of a spot, the path split into two. The Siddeshwara Swamy temple was to the left, where too many people seemed to be as if there was no pandemic going on and there exists no concept called ‘Social distancing’. We decided to distance ourselves from the gathering and took the path to the right. With having to pass between too many boulders, it did seem a little confusing initially. The distant passing clouds now seemed as if they had come to meet and greet us. But after walking a little ahead, we reached an area that was a transition from dry rocky mountain to rain soaked green forests. The real challenge of walking barefoot started there, with unassumed ground with gravel and possible thorns from the shrubs.
A little further, we reached an open rocky area where the view in front of us was playing hide and seek with each passing cloud. Apart from the drizzle and gusty winds that made it difficult for us to stand, we were mind-blown by the view we saw each time the clouds cleared out. There exists a small rain fed pond, a couple of meditating chambers that house Shiva Lingas (history unknown) and dilapidated remains of an old fortress. There was nobody else other than us in this entire stretch. We walked further and crossed two more hills before deciding to return, or else we would lose our way back.
It started to rain on our return, and we were quite drenched by the time we made it to the car that was parked just at the base point. The small eateries and stalls were slowly opening by that time which we chose not to visit, in order to avoid any social contacts with anyone else outside the group that we had gone in. We ate a few biscuits as a substitute for breakfast that we had carried from home and decided to stop the car next, only at home. It was a much-needed break and a pleasant little hike.
It is an easy hike and very good for beginners.
Be careful to carry all snacks only in a closed backpack as there are too many monkeys on the way.
You have probably read my earlier post on exploring the offbeat landmarks of Old Bengaluru. Here is another one. This time, it was a culinary trip of Old Bengaluru to a friend who had flown down to this southern metropolis, from the so-called Northern part of India. I had been asked to take him on a gastronomic tour of my city. For someone who has a penchant for everything old school, I thought Old Bengaluru would be perfect to call it a day. ‘From vintage automobiles, architecture, iconic restaurants serving traditional recipes to by lanes and alleys that narrate their own individual story of the city, this section of Bengaluru has everything that would tickle a bone or two of this mad man’, I thought.
Having largely spent my teenage in North Bengaluru and given my familiarity with the area, Malleswaram was my first choice. However, given the convenience of commutation from my current place of stay, I chose to show him around South Bengaluru. But when one says South Bengaluru, it is a world in itself and the geographical area is large to fit all in one day. Hence, I took time to mark a quick map of restaurants to cover, along with giving a peak into the cultural heart of the city. This part of the metro lays in stark contrast to the Bengaluru, that the millennials from Whitefield and Marathahalli know of.
The obvious choice was a walk tour of Basavanagudi and the Pete area. These are the two most important clusters of true Bengaluru that have held onto the roots, despite the rapid and traumatic transition this city has seen in the last decade in the name of urbanization and modernization. Under the canopy of massive native trees, the aroma of the by-two filter kaapis shared at the numerous Shanti Sagar and darshini food joints, the air here feels different from anywhere else. With almost every street dotted with Classical dance and music schools and happy nonagenarian couples whizzing in their Padminis and Ambassadors, it has a different vibe here. One can find some of the traditional old houses and landmark restaurants only in these localities to really experience old Bengaluru. Each of these iconic eateries have a near century old history and their old school ambience is still intact inside the heritage structures that house them. With a small appetite for food and a big quest for exploration, the portions of food were limited only to the signature dishes of each restaurant, to accommodate more places. So, here is my itinerary of a gastronomic tour of Bangalore of yore.
Meet-up point: Basavanagudi is the name of a temple (It translates to ‘Bull- Temple’). Basavanagudi is the name of a locality in South Bangalore, named after the temple. It is an extension of the Pete area, which was specifically created to accommodate the upper class, and more-specifically the Brahmin community. No trip to South Bengaluru is complete without a visit to this landmark temple built by Kempegowda, the founder of Bengaluru. Apart from the Big Bull temple, the Dodda Ganapathi and the Bugle rock (a small watch tower from the Kempegowda era) are a must visit on the same premises. If you time it up well, you can part-take in the annual groundnut fair in the locality. (Read here to know more about the history of the Kadlekai Parishe). After meeting my friend here, we started our gastronomic tour to our first food stop.
Food stop 1 (Breakfast): As synonymous as Dosa is with South India, Vidyarthi Bhavan is with South Bengaluru. Ask anyone for the best Dosa in the city and this place scores on top unanimously. It is a restaurant started initially to cater to the student community of the area which started a new culture of a hangout place for friends in those days. On most days, the queue can extend well up to a kilometer. My friend and I wiped off our plates of their signature Masala dosa for breakfast. (Click here to read further about the history of Vidyarthi Bhavan)
Food stop 2 (Light eats): No foodie who visits Bangalore is satisfied without taking an evening walk on the Eat street at VV-Puram. However, I decided to go here in the morning, in order to avoid the maddening rush. Honey cake and Congress bun at the iconic VB Bakery was what we needed. This is the first Iyengar bakery to be established in Karnataka which has paved a new culture in baking (Read here for more about V.B.Bakery). Avarebele (Val bean) is a favorite ingredient of the Bengalureans, who have a dedicated annual fair to celebrate this pulse (Click here to read further about Avarekai mela). Hence, picking up a packet of avarebele mixture for home from one of the stores there was an obvious choice.
Food stop 3 (11 o clock, coffee): It is an important break time for the employed section of the society. Brahmin’s Coffee bar is a household name for their filter coffee and the delectable chutney served with idly on their very limited menu. This tiny eatery is in a corner of Shankarapuram, which is also famed for the Shankaramatha, a learning center of the advaitha philosophy. We had a quick stopover for a hot cuppa this little place is known for, before heading to Pete. (Read further about Brahmin’s coffee bar here)
Food stop 4 (Lunch): To satiate the hunger pangs, I planned to treat my friend with an authentic Bangalorean affair. With multiple theories surrounding the origin of the military hotel culture, the history of these restaurants dotting across the southern part of Karnataka is unclear. Bangalore is home to some of the best in the state. I don’t think there would be any better meal than ‘Ragi Mudde oota’ savored at a military hotel to get a peek into the local flavor, including the ambience. Hence, we were lunching that afternoon at S.G. Rao’s military hotel, located in the cotton Pete area. A typical military hotel meal includes Kaal soup, Ragi Mudde and Mutton biriyani. (Click here to read further about S.G. Rao’s military hotel)
Food stop 5 (dessert): A meal is complete only with a nice dessert. If there is one sweet meat that is synonymous with Karnataka (Mysore state), it is Mysore pak. Since I couldn’t take my guest to Mysore for that, the closest I could get is at Sri Venkateshwara sweet meat stall located at Bale Pete, a short walk away from cotton Pete. Their Mysore pak and dumroot are the sweets my friend packed for his roommates back in his hometown. (Click here to read about Sri Venkateshwara sweet meat stall).
The Pete walk: An old Bengaluru exploration is nothing without a walk along the narrow snaking lanes of the Pete area, the true business epicenter of both New and Old Bengaluru. This area is segmented into various sections and named according to the commodity sold and the communities that resided there in the yester years. From green groceries, handloom, steel, plastic to precious metal, everything is available in this locality. An early morning walk in the famed flower market is an experience in itself. We limited ourselves to just the mainstream sections while exploring some of the ancient temples, mosques and heritage houses of the Kempegowda era. In the meanwhile, we kept munching on numerous snacks from several popular stalls on our way. Although these eateries are old, the flavors are largely north Indian, owing to the Marwari and Baniya community that reside here in majority.
The heritage structures of the Victoria hospital, Bangalore fort and Tippu Sultan’s summer palace all lay on the side of the road for the history and architecture buffs who have a little more time in hand. But this is all we could fit in our day. Thus, ended a gastronomic tour of South Bengaluru.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour with me too… did you? Or did you not? Share your thoughts with me…
There are many other iconic restaurants in Basavanagudi if you have a larger appetite. These are a few other places that you must check out when you are here: The new modern hotel, Mahalakshmi Tiffin room, Janata Tiffin rooms are a few among many others.
Souvenirs to buy:
Coffee filter and freshly roasted coffee powder: The best filter coffee is available only in South Bengaluru, and hence my friend thought this was a more significant thing to buy from here.
Channapatna wooden toys: These are GI tagged handicrafts made with organic colors and largely popular in the western market, it comprises a large collection of traditional toys.
When you feel things are not going right, life has its own ways to heal its kids, you see? While I was feeling morally weak, an unexpected trip to Gokarna was awaiting my way. This time, I was going to lead a group of people, or at least assist a leader with ‘Plan The Unplanned’. With many firsts of experiences in its kitty, I was looking forward for this weekend trip.
So, after braving the outbound traffic on a Friday evening, the group of 25 of us left Bangalore and alighted at Gokarna the next morning. Blame it on the bus driver or the roads, 11.30.a.m. was late by all standards to reach Gokarna for the team that left GGpalya at 11.00.p.m. on the previous night. Anyway, that’s where the leadership aspects began to be tested. Considering that we were 3+hrs behind schedule and all 25 in the group were first time hikers, controlling the overall time to cover all that was mentioned in the itinerary was crucial.
That said, we checked-in to the campsite where our tents were pitched by the seashore. Without wasting much time, the team freshened up and started the hike quickly after a filling breakfast. A minibus took us to the start point of our hike- the Belekan beach. From there, the actual weekend started to unfold. Since the internet is filled with itineraries for a Gokarna trip, I will not add another one to them. Unlike my usual style of writing long detailed posts, I’d like to keep this short and to the point.
For the experienced trekkers, this was merely a walk along the coastline. But even for them, the small stretches of forests opening to amazing views of the blue sea now and then made the walk worthwhile.
Despite being late, we caught up with the schedule and spent ample time to take a swim in each of the beaches along the trail. Paradise beach for a snack break (fresh tender-coconut water and cut-pineapple with masala are a mandate on any Indian beach), Half-moon beach for a filling lunch (The beachside shacks serve an array of cuisines catering to its large visitors’ base from across the globe), Om beach for chasing the most mesmerizing sunset of the year, Kudle beach for a sumptuous dinner and finally walking along the Gokarna main beach to reach our campsite on a moonlit night… We spotted dolphins from the rock of peace, something that I had been wanting to see for the longest time. And then, I got that long pending hair braid done by a beachside vendor (Click here to read about it in detail). These were the highlights of my beach walk. Until then, I thought my day was GREAT!
But wait, my co-leads took it up a notch higher. It was late into the night by the time the team had settled down in their tents. And I too was settling down to call it a day. By that time, my co-leads asked me to ditch my tent for the night and join them with my sleeping bag on the beach. The beaches of Gokarna are infamously known only next to Goa for having some badass drunken hippies strolling around. I did not want any misadventures on my first assignment as a lead. Although I was a little hesitant to do something wacky, I soon hit the sands with my co-leads and a fellow traveler.
Just in a bit and even before I realized it, I was sleeping under a clear sky, watching the stars. Well… watching a meteor shower! It was that night when the Geminids meteor shower was at its peak. We laid on the beach counting the number of shooting stars. When only one of us saw the meteor, the others would pull her leg telling that she was hallucinating. When all of us saw it together, we would shout in unison scaring away a few drunken people loitering around the beach. They would wonder who was drunk 😀
Eight… Nine… Ten… We counted the number of stars until we fell asleep to the lullaby sound of the waves. When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on the beach and seeing the white lights from the distant ships disappear into the light of the breaking dawn. This beach experience is something that killed it for the mountain girl in me!!! Only because I could strike a similar chord of interests with an awesome pair of co-leads and I can’t thank them enough for the night!
Yeah, managing a large group comes with its own set of challenges. Managing medical emergencies in the middle of the trail, accommodating quick changes in the itineraries and finding alternate destinations when abnormality struck were the unexpected things which I believe we handled with diligence. All said and done, the trip has been a memorable one in more than one way and a thumbs up to my new journey with Plan The Unplanned 😊
Let me get you going directly from where this trek to Kumara parvatha or KP peak is actually supposed to start. We reached Kukke Sri kshetra and checked into the lodge(a meagre 100Rs. Per day) run by the temple trust, freshened up and feasted on some sumptuous Mangalorean food for breakfast. Without wasting much time, we started the much hyped- one of the toughest treks in South India.. to the Kumara parvatha peak in the Pushpagiri wildlife zone.
The original plan was to start from the base by 7.00.a.m and camp at Bhatru mane. Then, leave Bhatru mane by 3.00.a.m the next morning and reach the peak to witness the sunrise, what is supposedly one of the best.
As planned, we entered the trekking trail.. It starts off with thick forest around and steep climbs uphill.. There was NO water sources along the way (We didn’t know that there was a perennial stream, with a small deviation after 2.5km) and a possibility of occasional encounters with elephants. We took frequent stops before taking a longer halt at Bhima’s rock. This stretch of 3km had oozed the fluid out of us..
Once this 3kms stretch was covered, we got our first view of Kukke town.. The thick canopy of forests made way to the grasslands after walking 1km further from there.. It was well past noon and the sun shined at its hottest.. We were running out of water already.. We started to wonder if Bhatru mane really existed and literally pulled ourselves to reach there. Or rather say, we pushed ourselves to walk the small distance that seemed never ending.. Finally… we were overjoyed at the first glimpse of Bhatru mane…
We ran down to his nestle amid a small piece of green land.. I find NO words to express the joy of finding water.. That too, clear and cold water from the stream that ran through his farm.. We had a simple, yet the tastiest lunch served by Bhatru and rested under the shades of his arecanut farm..
We then made a small change in the plan and decided to continue the trek until it was dark. We feared the pace at which we were climbing up and did not want to return late on the following day.. We halted at a view point along the way for some photographs, before reaching the forest checkpost. We continued our hike up after registering our names at the forest office.. We stopped again at yet another view point.. The sun was coming down by the time we reached kal-mantapa and hence we decided to pitch our tent near the stream that ran by..
I don’t remember which sane person in the group chose the place.. I agree that we got a place which became every other trekker’s envy.. The place was for sure, a top rated spot for sunset viewing.. But we girls, who stayed inside the tent know what we went through that night.. The tent was pitched on a slope, on the edge of a rocky cliff which seemed like the place where the earth ended.. It was soon dark and we ate the little food that we had carried and hit the bed (Read hit the rocks)..
The boys comforted themselves in their sleeping bags and threw the poor girls inside the tent.. The entire night went by like this: ‘Our respective backpacks were used as pillows inside our tent. We all would slide down with our bags inside the tent.. again we would push back everything and move up.. Slide down.. Slide up.. Phew..!!’ And a while into midnight.. The intensity of the wind also increased.. The cover of the tent started to fly.. We hoped for it to be 3.00.a.m soon so that we all could start our ascend.. But another surprise was awaiting us.. Madhu heard the cracking sound of the tent support and scared all the girls inside to vacate the tent. We carried our luggage from inside and jumped out of the tent, one by one.. The last girl just came out and the tent crashed down to a flat.. The guys woke up and one of them attempted to slowly remove the pegs.. One peg was removed and then… The tent flew.. away from our reach.. off the cliff.. down the valley.. We had borrowed the tent, on hire.
Everyone woke up and sat wondering why this had to happen. It was still dark at 4.00.a.m. and with the wind that continued to blow ruthlessly, our ascend to the peak seemed impossible.. We stayed back until sunrise 😦 We decided to compromise on one of the main agenda of our trek- Watching the sunrise at KP peak.
After there was dawn,one of the boys dared to go down the cliff. He had a thrilling feat with adventure and managed to bring back the tent that had settled on a boulder in the middle of a water body, down below in the valley.. More than getting excited about finding the tent, we were all celebrating his safe return.. It was around 7.00.a.m by the time we started our ascent.
Inspite of missing the sunrise, the views post that period were equally spectacular, all along the way. The climb was pretty smooth. It was around 11.00.a.m. by the time we reached the first peak/ false peak- Shesha parvatha.
The view from the base of Shesha Parvatha
After just a few photo moments, we decided to continue our journey.. We descended the steep rock and waded through super cool, thick jungles.. And then, climbed up another steep rock. This rockclimbing with bare hands and legs reminded me of our monkey ancestors.!! A small walk further up took us to the actual end of the earth. Right there, we had conquered our destination- Kumara Parvatha..!!
Shiva temple atop Kumara parvatha
Thanking the diety with a small bow in the temple on the peak, we set our return journey.. Getting down the rocky slope of KP seemed tricky with one of my friends ending up with torn trousers when he decided to sit and slide down on his butt 😉
The descend from Shesha Psrvatha was no easy task either. The loose gravel all along the trail made walking difficult without slipping. It was 4.00.p.m by the time we reached Bhatru mane.. We realised that we had covered only half the distance and had very less time left with sunlight.. We had to complete the remaining distance before it got dark because that was the toughest stretch with thick forests and wild animals. We had a quick lunch at Bhatru mane and got some rest in fast forward mode and started our descend by 5.00.p.m..
We knew we had very less time in hand and a LONG way to go.. We all walked as fast as we could. Our legs had given up already.. I was preparing my mind to stay back in the forest and make a feast of myself to some wild animal at night.. I ran down the slope at times.. My knees seemed like they would part away from my thighs.. We saw the sun coming down.. We continued to walk fast.. We saw the sun going down the horizon.. We paced up.. Suddenly we all halted.. There was pin drop silence.. We realised that some wild animal(mostly elephant) was somewhere around.. It took us a few minutes to feel the sound move away from us.. Then, we resumed our walk. We saw the bright day fade into darkness and every shade in this process. The toughest and the last stretch was almost coming to an end.. We had FINALLY reached the KP gate… And the last ray of light too waned into darkness.. Thus came an end to the KP trek- a mission….. accomplished..!!
We all then freshened up at the same lodge and did a quick visit to the Kukke temple before hitting the roads on our return journey.
NOTE: The above story is written based on my trek back in 2013 when there was no restriction on camping in the entire trail. As on 2019, camping is allowed only around the forest checkpost and Bhatru mane. So, it is wiser to plan the distance, hiking time and camping accordingly.
Must do things/ Highlights of Kumara parvatha trek:
Bhatru mane is the ONLY place you will find food and it is an experience in itself to get your turn in the queue to have your meal served. The same basic rice and sambar is served for all 3 meals and nobody complains. Not tasty, but finding food after a long day is LUXURY here. Bhatru has a fixed time for serving food and very punctual. The crowd is huge especially on weekends and the wait for your meal can take longer if you dont have your own plate.
The sunset from the view point enroute forest checkpost or Kal-Mantapa
To watch the Sunrise from Kumara parvatha is like going to a different world. Try to make it there in time.
The sky is in its clearest form and star gazing at night is a whole different experience. You see so many stars, bright and clear that it feels as if the sky has moved closer to earth. We got lucky as it was also a night of a meteor shower, so we saw many shooting stars.
Drinking water from the stream felt like nectar. So clean and tasty. You can fill your bottles at 4 places along the way. First after 3kms, near the Bhimas rock. Second, at Bhatru mane. Third, at the forest checkpost. Fourth, at a stream just before kal-mantapa.
Too many details to type in about a super awesome weekend.. So let me zip through it ASAP 🙂
We started from Bangalore at 2.a.m. hoping to reach Bandipur by 6.a.m- That’s when the forest checkpost opens and we could spot few animals on the road.. But, due to frequent pit-stops, we made it only by 7.a.m.- Nevertheless, We spotted a good number of elephants, peafowls, fox, deers, sambars, wild boars etc.
First in the visit list was the Avalanche – A steep & breathtaking climb of 35 hairpin bends with deep valley covered by thick white snowy clouds on one side led us to the Queen of hills- Udagamandalam a.k.a. Ootacamund a.k.a. Ooty. Without wasting much time amidst the maddening crowd of tourists there, we drove down another set of 34 hairpin curves- 25 kms further from Ooty to reach the forest checkpost of Avalanche.. Thick rainforests on either sides, bumpy waterlogged pot-holes, scenic view of backwaters of the Emerald dam at every turn accompanied us all the way till the start point of the eco-tour.. Once there, we hired the forest jeep for a 24 kms drive through the Shola forests- It was indeed a BEAUTIFUL place 🙂
On a clear day, one can see the dam from this place.. A century old Bhavani temple, innumerous waterfalls along the way finally ended at Lakdi spot. This is a BEAUTIFUL place and a must visit for the backpacker.. Thick fog makes the visibility poor which adds onto the adventure of the jeep ride. If one is lucky, he could spot a leopard or an elephant on the way..
After a short break at Ooty- the last place to fill fuel, draw cash from the ATM, buy the essentials- we headed towards THE DESTINATION- “Masinagudi”- a part of the Mudumalai forest range. We had booked our stay at the Whistling woods estate which is adjacent or rather located within the reserve forest itself..
Our cars were parked at the Singara checkpost, beyond which only jeeps/SUVs can be used to reach the cottages. This 3 km ride was a GRAND welcome in itself: Our road was blocked by herds of elephants, bisons and deers. These encounters took our excitement to a soaring high..!!
After a quick round of dinner, we all got ready for the highlight of the trip- The night safari: at 00.00 hrs in the night, who can believe if we say we drove in an open jeep into the heart of the national park in search of a tiger that was feasting on its latest kill..?? And once there, the screeching monster engines haulted, lights were switched off- Not even the moon; only the open sky with the twinkling stars guided us through. The only 2 sounds we could hear: The chirping of the crickets & the pounding of our anxious hearts.. What we all discovered right there, in the middle of nowhere was “ETERNAL BLISS”. Even after a thorough search through the remotest corners of the grassland, we could not find the tiger until 2.00.a.m. We were definitely sad about the fact, but the bumpy ride in itself was worth it all…….!!! We did spot a few other animals though..!!
Next morning, we were greeted by the excellent view of the Blue mountains through the window glasses.. We all jumped up for the guided walk along the stream lining the boundary of the reserve area.. We captured some rare fauna line the Nilgiri langurs, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar giant squirrel, pea-fowl etc. in our machine-gun-sized cameras.. The climb to the tree top house is also worth a mention that gave us a good view of the forest around.. It was afternoon already by then and we had to pack up for the return journey… 😥
Unlike what happens usually on a return journey, all the 9 of us were jumping off our seats every 100 yards until we crossed Bandipur: We encountered atleast 24 elephants including a herd with a new born, atleast 20 peacocks all set to open up their feathers as it had started to drizzle, sounder of wild boars etc. Truly awesome 🙂
This is ONE trip I would love to do all over again and that time, it would be for a longer stay here… in the cradle of mother nature.. Just one FANTASTIC trip 🙂
The Plan :
—>Finish work by 6.00.p.m
—>Reach home by 7.30.p.m
—>Leave home by 9.00.p.m
—> Reach the railway station by 09.45.p.m
—> Board the Chennai Mail for scheduled departure at 10.40.p.m
* Reached home at 08.30.p.m
* Left home at 09.15.p.m… And then the blog starts….
Half an hour behind plan, I thought I could catch the BMTC that passes through my road at 09.30.p.m. I kept waiting.. At 09.31.p.m, the bus appeared at the end of the road.. I crossed the road to reach the actual bus stop.. Bloody HELL..!! He drove straight rather than taking a right turn and stopping at where I was.. Time was running out and the last bus on that route had zipped past without me.. Now I had to rush to the other end of the village to avail a more frequent bus service..
09.45.p.m and still no signs of any bus or any rickshaws.. One bus seemed to appear then- no lights, no route number, no passengers.. But, it was a BMTC. I just jumped in without thinking too much and I bought a ticket to BEL circle(2 stops ahead)- This is a busy junction on a usual day with buses plying to Majestic every minute.. I landed there at 09.55.p.m. The wide roads looked rather deserted with just 2-3 commuters who also boarded some private transport headed towards Hebbal. There were 2 rickshaws: I proceeded towards one- “500Rs.” he said.(that’s like 3 times the actual fare) Like I had a choice, I was just about to step into the rick and a BMTC showed up at 10.01.p.m (Mark it.. Every minute counted.!!). With the roads seeming empty, in the worst case, my journey shouldn’t take more than 30 mins. I would still have 09 mins to board the train.
10.05.p.m, the bus had already reached Ypr-toll gate. I was happy.. 2 mins ahead, It was Malleshwaram and then- There was a cloud burst- heavy downpour from nowhere.. We all could hear ‘bang-bang’ ‘thud-thud’ noise from the bus roof, windshields- huge hail stones were falling outside.. The driver was almost blinded with the windshield wipers giving away.. He still managed to reach Central at 10.25.p.m. On a normal busy day, It takes about 5-10 mins to wade through the usual traffic congestion at this junction. I still had hopes.. But, thanks to the Metro construction, the road had come to a complete stand still. So the driver took a right turn and a round about route to reach Anand Rao circle.. Again passing through link road, A gutter’s walls had given up and it was a total chaos. Bikers were pushing their 2-wheelers across, 4-wheelers were floating around with water above their seat level. This water was upto our feet inside the mighty BUS.. Inspite of the spate, our driver crossed the street.. Further ahead, approaching Anand Rao circle, the roads were water logged. One had to be totally sloshed or had to just drive based on assumptions.. And then—> THUD..!! the bus came to a thumping hault.. A few passengers in the front seats leaned over their fellow commuters- the front wheels of the bus had gotten into a large pothole(or whatever it was) with no chances of getting out.
It was 10.41.p.m(Lala… my train.??) I took my bag and just got off the bus and began to walk.. Trust me: I did not know which street I was in and had no clue of the way to the station.. And its POURING cats & dogs and I have no umbrella..!! The water on the roads were upto my knees(I could not pull up my trousers further up)… 6 rickshaws appeared all at once- 5 declined to ferry me to the station, while the last one nodded a YES.. I just jumped in, “50 Rs..!!” he said for a basic fare ride. “It’s OK.. just take me ASAP..” I said. Poor fellow rode across with extreme caution and care because I was a lone girl(A rarity in Bengaluru to find such rickshaw-walas). Just as I figured out where I was (Shantala theatre), the auto stopped with a choke. Stranded in the middle of the road, the driver kept cranking the engine again and again.. I asked him if I had to get down, he said “No madam.. it is not safe for you. It will be fine. Please sit inside.” It was a pure scene of water ingress into the engine..
The time was 10.53.p.m. My point of worry now had shifted.. It was not about missing the train.. It was about what my next POA(Plan Of Action) would be..?
* I’ve been home alone for the past 2 months and no one back home to pick me up
* Even if there was some one, they couldn’t reach Majestic cuz the roads were all water logged.
* No bus/ricks were available to home given the road conditions.
* It was not a safe idea even if some rick guy agreed to ferry me at 1000 Rs.
* No way I could reach Shantinagar bus station either, in the given road conditions & the time of the night.
* Travelling in a General bogie to Chennai = IMPOSSIBLE..
—> So, I was prepared to stay over at the station’s waiting room until next morning and then head back home…
10.56.p.m.: Poor guy is still cranking… All in vain. I stuffed a 100 Rs. note into his hand, told him that I was extremely sorry for causing this, thanked him warmly for the biiig favour and I began to run towards the station. I just kept running with no hopes, small hopes, faint hopes of the train waiting for me.. I tripped & then slipped.. And I fell hard on the road.. I picked up and continued to run..
11.00.p.m.– Bang on the clock- I’m on platform no.1 and the Chennai mail is beaming at me… “OH HELL.. YEAH..!!” Including the luggage, I was soaking wet till the last piece of my clothing.
I was fortunate for 3 reasons:
* Not hiring the rick at BEL circle lest be stranded at the open gutter part of the city for the rest of the night
* Not having washed away into some manhole in the water logged roads
* Late departure of the Chennai mail.
11.01.p.m.– The train hooted and thugged past the platform. Once the journey started, all my fellow passengers were getting ready to hit the slumbers.. Forget sleeping, I could not even sit since I could not dry myself up and had cramps all over..But, it was the sheer joy of not having missed the train and making it to my friend’s D-day that made up for it all…
That’s what we call bidding farewell in style.. You need to send off a dear one on a happy note; with something that he likes doing and something that he will cherish.. So here’s the one for you Sam : A trek – for the group of people that we are- who are always high on tripping.. 🙂
After a dinner party at the ‘Only Place’ on a Friday night, we started to drive towards NH-4 in 2 cars and 2 bikes at 1.00.a.m.. With a smooth highway road and bumpy country sides- We reached the guest house at the foothill of Madhugiri at around 4.00.a.m. The initial plan was to reach the top before sunrise to have a good view of the sunrise above the clouds.. But, the caretaker at the guesthouse advised us to leave after sunrise as bear attacks were reported recently on the hills.. There was hardly anytime left for sunrise and we all sat up in anticipation.
After a coffee break at a petty shop in front of the fort entrance, we started the climb by 7.00.a.m.. The start of the trek made me feel like it was going to be an easy climb and was contrary to what I had heard of it being difficult… A well laid flight of concrete stairs took us to about 1/5 th of the hill… Further, the climb was tricky- the hill seemed a little steep, the concrete stairs were replaced by steps carved out of the rock itself.. We covered 2/5th of our climb.
And then the steps disappeared. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little more steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.
Somewhere in between, some ruined wall emerged out.. this added to the climbing woes which gave us only limited space to place our footsteps and not sufficient grip to place our hand.. And then, we had to jump over a small(quite a big one indeed) crack in the monolith, on the other side was the steep valley.. Once, we had jumped- every structure that was man made disappeared.. It was just one super steep hill stretching into the sky.. we had to literally use all four limbs to scale this 4/5th of the hill.
And finally- there emerged the first glimpse of the gritty Madhugiri fort- yet, seemingly elegant. This was built by Raja Heere Gowda who owed allegiance to the Vijayanagara kings, which was later reinforced by Hyder Ali. It is believed that this fort was a comfortable hideout for many freedom fighters during the Independence struggle. Beehives on the ramparts of the fort were the only means of sustenance for them and that is said to have given the place its name – Madhu(honey)- Giri(hill)
We walked across the structure in its dilapidated form where the view on the other side was a treat to our eyes and feast for our tired souls. Our joy knew no bounds when we found a puddle of rainwater, which tasted no less than nectar from a bee hive..
We spent some time atop and started our descent so that we could reach the base before the scorching sun made his way.. It was a rather difficult way back down with me losing my grip every now and then, having nothing to hold onto.. I had to sit and slide down inch by inch at most places.. And finally…. Bang at 12.00. noon, we had reached the base… An awesome trek and the last one for this season with Sam…. Wish you all the success in your career and we all look forward for many more trips with you…
P.S.: photo credits to Sam (I’d left my camera in the safe confines of my home)
It was after a long time we cousins were catching up and we planned to have an all cousins day out (no aunties, uncles, mammas and pappas ). We narrowed down on Mekedaatu as we knew we’d be leaving the house late anyway as these moms would cause delay throwing in reasons and showing worries that only kids were hanging out (KIDS..??) After all that, we started by 10.00a.m.. And to add to our woes, it was Banashankari Amma’s annual festival that day – that means a hopeless traffic jam where the metro construction was also underway..!!
Six kms before Mekedaatu, we saw a board pointing to the left which said: way to Chunchi falls. We just wanted to give it a visit since it was just enroute. We were very disappointed once we reached there, as there was hardly any water in the river; the rocks shined bright only reflecting the sunlight; it was still winter and summer was far away.. just as we were about to turn our backs like most others who were there, a localite just started a conversation with us and eventually told us he would take us to a better view point. We blindly nodded and followed him.. we crossed a small dam, a ridge.. But he kept walking.. after a tiring walk in the sun for about 1.5 kms, we slowly started to grow suspicious as to where this man was taking us as the place looked more secluded. But, just then, he pointed at a watch tower and told us that we can get a good view. Before we could react, he intruded – but, we need to walk down there, behing that bush- we were like- OK.. hmm huh..!! Once we reached that spot- it was a total sense of relief – Had we gone back, we would have missed such a great spot. I’m sure this place looks amazing in the monsoon season.
After spending a while at the falls, we thanked the old man with a few alms and headed towards Sangam. This place is a confluence of river Kaveri and Arkavathi and supposedly a very scenic spot post monsoons. But, it was a disappointment again when we reached there. Lack of rains has caused this and it being a weekend, was crammed with tourists with very little place to even sit peacefully on the river banks..
After disappointments back to back, we were apprehensive of going to Mekedaatu wondering if that place would really be worth our visit. Trekking the 3 kms distance from Sangama to Mekedatu is banned now and hence, we had to wait for the pick up bus to come. We lost our patience, and crossed the shallow waters back to reach our car. The security guard who had been observing us, walked upto us and suggested that we go to Mekedaatu since we had already come so far from the city. We were still half minded, and tossed a coin. Heads said a ‘Go’.. So we again crossed the river, by then the bus had returned. We got the last seat for ourselves. The bus was a total-out-of-the-junk-yard-thing. The seats we were sitting on were infact tied to the roof rails with strings- more like a swing..!! And the fully crammed bus(packed to twice its capacity) started. It was an unpaved road, and a lot of dust was filled inside the bus which made us literally stand up from those swinging seats..
Once we reached Mekedaatu after a strenuous back seat ride, we felt that the security guard was right- It was a nice place. But, again insufficient rains did not give me the internet picture I wanted. Legend has it, that a goat had jumped across this gorge to escape from a chasing tiger and hence the name derived from Kannada. (Meke = goat; daatu = cross)
We decided to get on to the top of the bus, as our onward ride was a bad experience. Trust me.. It was the highlight of our entire day.. The best bus ride we all have ever had in our life. The bus went at high speed blowing the dust high up from the unpaved roads.. There was just just one thin steel rod around for us to hold onto- that too was tied to the windows below.. At one point, another bus came in the opposite direction, and our bus went completely off road and was balancing on few small stones on the slope of the valley so that he could make enough space for the other bus to pass through the narrow road.. we could reach the tree tops, see the best views of the river, valley… One amazing ride…
We ended up feeling that the return trip was a very short one and wanting for more… one adrenaline rush moment it was..!! truly..!!
It was the last ride for the day as the sun had already set and we returned to our homes high on energy and all charged up and motivated for an extremely boring week ahead 😦
This photo was taken post monsoon the last year..!!
The initial plan was to leave before sunrise so that we could see the birds at the sanctuary before they left their homes for the day’s chores.. However, a flat tyre, pit stops added up to late arrival at the Srirangapatna-Yelwala bypass. This led to a few additions and deletions in the original plan so that we could see the birds late in the evening…
As per the new plan, we headed to Gaganachukki and Bharachukki falls.. After a nice long drive through the green paddy fields and rusty countryside, we reached Shivanasamudra. This is one of the island towns formed by river Kaveri through its course. This is where Asia’s first hydel-power project was set up, commissioned by the then Diwan of Mysore- K.Sheshadri Iyer; inorder to supply electricity for mining at Kolar Gold Fields.
A couple of kilometers away, we reached another waterfall which is the other branch of the river cascading down.
The beauty of the twin waterfalls was truly mesmerising.. But, we did not want to take the risk of venturing into the water for a coracle ride; Not atleast after we heard that the water was 1000 feet deep at some point. We are not sure how true that was, but a chance without a life jacket..? Never..!!
The sun was approaching his highest point, and we decided that our next destination would be Talakadu. We have all grown up hearing the story how this place is cursed by Alamelamma’s spell during the reign of the Wodeyars of Mysore and their stinct with the curse still running in their blood line -having no male child till date.. However, the excitement we had when we started to this place soon died(infact got burried deep under the sands) when we reached here. The place was extremely filthy with poop scattered everywhere and an unbearable stench had spread around. The river was shallow and looked stagnant and unappealing. Yet, for the sake of going there, we went for a coracle ride which was definitely not worth the buck. The place was a total turn off..!! We lost our interest to explore the temples and left the place..
We lost our way at some point and could not connect to the highway.. We just kept driving on some narrow road through the countryside(which was a feast for the eyes) and when we thought we reached the highway, we realised we had infact reached Mysore..!! We were extremely hungry and so feasted at a nice restaurant in the city itself.
Some friend suggested us to visit Kaaranji kere in Mysore where we could do some bird watching. Around 3.00.p.m, we headed there- This was infact the highlight of the trip- though unplanned, it came as a treat to us 🙂
We took a boat ride around the lake where we spotted many many varieties of exotic birds. Not in large numbers, but many varieties. It surely is a haven for the bird lovers. I pity myself for not being able to identify what birds they were…
There is also an enclosure where many other native birds are kept along with a few animals and reptiles. A good place indeed..!!
So, finally by 5.00.p.m, we headed out for what we had come all the way– Ranganathittu Bird sanctuary. It was the time when all the birds returned to their nests.. We were there for sunset. We then took a boat ride around the small islets where thousands of birds have made their homes.
The trees looked amazing with the birds and the water looked equally dangerous- with crocodiles swimming right past us.. Again, we spotted a lot of different birds since it was the peak of the migratory season 🙂
All in all, though most part of the day was unplanned, it was a drive well deserved 🙂
getting lost in traveling through places and time…